Redheads, Aythya americana, concentrate in large numbers annually in traditional wintering areas along the western and northern rim of the Gulf of Mexico. Two of these areas are the Laguna Madre of Texas and Chandeleur Sound of Louisiana. We collected data on 54,340 activities from 103 redhead flocks in Texas and 51,650 activities from 57 redhead flocks in Louisiana. Males and females fed similarly, differing neither in levels of feeding (percent of all birds in flock that were feeding) (p>0.90) nor in percentages of birds feeding by diving, tipping, dipping, or gleaning from the surface (p>0.10). The foraging level of redheads in the upper Laguna Madre region was relatively constant throughout two winters. Foraging of redheads in early winter in Louisiana was significantly greater than redhead foraging in the upper Laguna Madre, but by late winter, foraging by redheads in Louisiana had declined to the same level as that shown by redheads foraging in the upper Laguna Madre. The overall foraging level of redheads from Chandeleur Sound was greater (41%) than that of redheads in the upper Laguna Madre (26%), yet it was quite similar to the 46% foraging level reported for redheads from the lower Laguna Madre. Redheads in the upper Laguna Madre region of Texas fed more by diving than did those in the Chandeleur Sound and the lower Laguna Madre. Diving increased in frequency in late winter. Greater reliance by redheads on diving in January and February indicates that the birds altered their foraging to feed in deeper water, suggesting that the large concentrations of redheads staging at this time for spring migration may have displaced some birds to alternative foraging sites. Our results imply that the most likely period for food resources to become limiting for wintering redheads is when they are staging in late winter. ?? Springer 2006.
Additional publication details
Foraging behavior of redheads (Aythya americana) wintering in Texas and Louisiana